Things to look forward to in 2010

In my last post I looked back on the best of 2009, and in this one, I will briefly look forward to 2010 on the major releases that have got me excited to the skin of my teeth.

Tamil Cinema

It has been a great start to 2010 with four very different movies already hitting their mark with both the critics and the public. On the one hand, we had the unique take on the fantasy-epic genre from Selvaraghavan, Aayirathil Oruvan, which was as good as the hype it got and certainly one of my favorites in this young year; and, on the other, we had a first-time spoof in Tamil cinema not surprisingly called Thamizh Padam which was one of the intelligent funnier movies in recent memory. We also got Goa, which was all about the fun and, of course, Vinnaithandi Varuvaya, which has especially struck a chord with most people though it did not make as much an impression on me as I thought it would. So, with the exception of some high-profile disappointments like Asal and Kutty, it already looks like 2010 will be a better year than 2009 for Tamil movies.

English Cinema

Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island has already hit the theatres in the western world to mixed reviews. But, c’mon, it’s from Scorsese, so it should be good. Iron Man 2 and the long awaited third movie in the Toy Story series should hit in the summer. Add to that The Expendables – the first movie featuring Schwarzenegger and Stallone together (Legendary, huh!) - not to mention Jason Statham, Jet Li and Bruce Willis - it looks to be heaven for action movie fans; Inception from Chris Nolan – if it is even half as good as Dark Knight, I will be happy – and, of course, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, in which I hope to God the threesome of Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson have finally learned to act so that they can at least try to match and provide us with some of the emotions we felt in the closing chapter in the Harry Potter saga.


Vampire Weekend’s sophomore effort, Contra, is already out and sounds as good as their eponymous debut. U2 have promised Songs of Ascent which should feature more spiritual leftovers from No Line on the Horizon, and sound sick for sure. To add to that, the year also features an album from Arcade Fire (Dude, Funeral and Neon Bible were stunning and probably some of the best debuts and sophomore albums ever), Murder by Death (Red of Tooth and Claw was the best album of 2008, by far); Fleet Foxes’ sophomore effort (their eponymous debut was the second-best of 2008), another Hold Steady album, and I heard Radiohead are also recording. Makes your mouth water, doesn’t it?


Again, a great start already to 2010 with the sequel to Bioshock and Mass Effect already in store shelves (and my collection, by the way) and being received with rave reviews. Assassin’s Creed II for the PC is just around the corner and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 looks like it will be a PC first-person shooter in just about every way Modern Warfare 2 was not a PC first-person shooter. Not to mention Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising and Dragon Age: Origins: Awakening in a few weeks, Splinter Cell: Conviction in April, Civilization V due for Spring, Mafia II and the recently announced Portal 2 out in Winter and much more. 2009 already looks like history.

There’s certainly a lot to look forward to in 2010. As always, we hope the end-products match with the above very high expectations, but if they come anywhere near close to that mark, 2010 will be an awesome year for entertainment.

Best of 2009

The subtitle of this post is: I am lazy.

While I would have loved to do a separate “Best of 2009” entry for each of my favourite entertainment formats, I realized I have not seen/experienced enough of each of them to come up with a proper list and, of course, I am too lazy. So, without further ado, here is a consolidated list of my favourites from games, movies and music for the year 2009.

Best Tamil Film

There were a large number of really good movies in 2009 like Yaavarum Nalam, Eeram, Ayan, Thiru Thiru Thuru Thuru and some others, but no movie stood out more from the crowd than Unnaipol Oruvan.

Well, obviously, any movie that boasts of a cast that includes Kamal Hassan and Mohan Lal is surely going to stand out, but that wasn’t what made the movie so special. The fact that it was released after the 26/11 attacks, at a time when the country was still coming to grips with the terror threat certainly made it one for the times and the movie put that aspect to good use. Kamal Hassan, his director Chakri Toleti and dialogue write Ee. Ra. Murugan left no stone unturned in conveying their message. The movie criticized everyone right from politicians who look out for their own position of power, to the headlines seeking nature of the news-channels, to the judicial system which takes forever to convict an obvious terrorist and, of course, the general public, whose largely ignorant attitude is one of the prime reasons for our current state.

To close it out, I would like to bring up what I wrote in my review - “With a star-studded cast, dialogues that hit the nail on the head and a very meaningful message, Unnaipol Oruvan is a must-watch for any Tamil viewer.” And it most certainly is the best Tamil Movie of 2009.

Best English Film

Quentin Tarantino may have been snubbed at the Oscars (except for the obvious Best Supporting Actor win for Christopher Waltz), but in my opinion, he directed and wrote the best movie of 2009 in Inglourious Basterds. Don’t mistake me, The Hurt Locker was certainly a pulsating movie in its own right, and most definitely better than Avatar which was the other movie considered for top honours, but the amount of pure entertainment that Tarantino offered in IB has remained unmatched for the rest of the year.

To take a genre that has been beaten to death in Hollywood, and present it in a fresh manner, and to do it while also stamping his own style and authority in each frame certainly takes some doing. But, like me, if you’ve been a Tarantino fan since Pulp Fiction, you wouldn’t be surprised. Although Kill Bill was a great action movie which oozed style, it lacked the one thing that we fans identified with Tarantino: the dialogues. And Basterds was in many ways a return to form for him, with almost every line being memorable and delivered juicily by every cast member in pitch perfect fashion.

It also showed him in his top writing form. In true Tarantino fashion, the movie was presented as several disjointed episodes until he finally brought them together in glorious fashion. He also managed to re-write actual history, but not only that, he made his version of World War II feel authentic and stand on its own apart from the events that actually occurred during the years leading up to the end in 1945. If that didn’t warrant a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, I don’t know what does. But, I digress.

Inglourious Basterds is most certainly my favourite movie from 2009, and one that I know I will watch and re-watch until Quentin Tarantino entertains us with his next masterpiece.

Best Album

This is probably the easiest pick of the lot for me, but it is also going to be my most partial pick. The best album of 2009 for me will be No Line on the Horizon from U2.

I certainly don’t confess to be a long-time U2 fan. Actually, I started listening to their music just over 3 years back I think, but it feels like it’s been longer than that. Maybe that’s part of the reason why they sound so special and why they are possibly the biggest band in the world today. And after the quality of their last two albums, I expected an album that would take it safe and follow their same style, and that thought did not improve after I heard “Get on Your Boots”, the first single from the album.

However, I got the album and started listening and got over the first 2 tracks and, for sure, my thinking continued along the same lines because they were not highlights (at least on the first listen, they have grown on me over time). The titular track sounded pretty good and Magnificent was U2 being U2 by providing one high-spirited song in the album. Then, I heard Moment of Surrender, and I was not on Earth anymore. Bono’s voice has never sounded better. For God’s sake, the man is nearly 50 and is giving every young singer a run for his money. It was like they had taken everything good about the band - every perfect strum of the guitar by The Edge and Adam Clayton, and every perfect beating of the drum by Larry Muller Jr. and Brian Eno had mastered it into a song that was perfect in just about every way imaginable. Hell, I sound like a fanboy, but that is what I am and if this song does not touch you on some level, then I don’t know what to say.

Nearly every song on the album is a winner – Breathe is awesome and the second best track on the album, the aforementioned Magnificent is also good and the rest come together perfectly in what is most definitely my favourite album from 2009. (Although I do have to give honourable mentions to It’s Blitz! from Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Merriweather Post Pavilion from Animal Collective – both were the first albums I listened to from the respective bands and both did run U2 close for their money.)

Best Videogame

2009 was not a great year for PC gaming by any means. On the one hand, almost all expected AAA titles like Splinter Cell: Conviction, Assasssin’s Creed II (PC) and Mafia II were delayed; and, on the other, we got what was the most disappointing high-profile console port in a long time in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – a game whose single-player campaign was a measly 6 hours and which did not even incorporate dedicated servers for the PC. This kind of game, from a developer who are what they are because of their dedicated PC fans, was most certainly the biggest disappointment of 2009 apart from the large number of delays. Again, I digress from the actual topic.

However, have no fear when Bioware are here. (God that sounded so cheesy!) Yes, the developer of countless PC classics like Baldur’s Gate II and Neverwinter Nights returned to form with a game that was for the PC first and foremost – Dragon Age: Origins. Although, it appeared on both consoles, the experience of playing it on the PC was much better thanks to a superior battle system, higher resolution graphics and the joy of playing it with a keyboard & mouse. For the first time in a long time, PC gamers were not the sufferers and boy did it feel ever so good.

But that is not the reason why Dragon Age is the best game of 2009. It was also home to the best story, dialogues, voice-acting and music of 2009. Bioware outdid their previous RPG Mass Effect by presenting a world which -- though it was obviously inspired by countless fantasy epics, most notably The Lord of the Rings and A Song of Fire & Ice – felt entirely fresh and original with characters as three-dimensional and complex as any you would ever encounter in a videogame and decisions that actually mattered in the context of the game world. They also gave PC gamers with the most complex battle-system seen on a PC RPG in quite a while. In true Bioware fashion, you could pause the action, survey the surroundings, queue up orders (though I am still waiting on a patch to allow me to queue up multiple orders per party character) and unpause to see the effects in all their glory. But, not only that, you could also assign tactics to each of your squad members to act on their own when a particular event occurred, like heal a party member when their health reached below 50% or protect a mage who was surrounded by melee warriors, and so on. That gave the action a large amount of flexibility that had been missing on the PC for a long time.

Combine all that together and it truly felt like the return of the prodigal son to their throne on top of the of PC developer pile. With a pure-fantasy world rich with lore to be discovered in every corner, three-dimensional and fully-realized characters that populate an epic tale, fantastic dialogues and voice-acting, and a complex battle system that makes strategizing battles an art-form, Dragon Age: Origins is the best game of 2009. (Sorry, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War 2, which was a very close second.)

So, that’s it as far as 2009 is concerned, but there is a lot to look forward in 2010, which I will do briefly in my next entry.